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For our discussion on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, the Banned Book Club selected the graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier. We usually read one graphic novel per year and this year I gave the Club choice between Watchmen, and the top two challenged books of 2016: Drama at number 2 and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki at number 1. We had to choose the book before August because the owner of King’s Books wanted to announce the meeting for a special arts month promotion in October. Drama is a very colorful book about a middle school stage crew producing a school musical. I wasn’t familiar with the musical in the book but it looked like it took place in the South during the Civil War. The graphic novel centers on one member of the crew, Callie, an energetic girl with purple hair. Early on she has crushes easily but she goes through a lot of growth over the course of the story. The themes of theater, drama both on and off stage, personal growth, acceptance of LGBTQ, and friendship combine to make a rather compelling story.The book contained an interesting relatable reference. One of the characters is named Bonnie Lake. Telgemeier must either not be from the Puget Sound area or paying homage to it. Another relatable reference is one panel shows Callie using a cell phone with a keyboard. The acknowledgments at the end of the book thank David Levithan.Not surprisingly, theater plays a strong role in the book. Each chapter actually shows a curtain as if the story itself is a play. Callie’s love of theater is explored very deeply. She first got into it when she was younger and saw a professional production of “Les Miserables.” Callie takes Jesse to a place with an old book about theater with pictures of plays from the early 20th century. While paging through the book Callie and Jesse “jump” into it “Mary Poppins-style.” Callie tells Jesse that “I want the audience to believe that the actors really live inside the world on the stage.” (p. 53) Drama even has a bibliography of books on theater that Telgemeier used for research. Drama occurs both on and off stage in the book. West asks Bonnie, “Why are you creating extra drama for yourself?” (p. 172) Observing an argument, another character exclaims, “Ooh, drama.” (p. 194)The book contains several twists and surprises that I enjoyed. I liked how some of the characters surprised me. The most impressive was Callie’s growth. She starts out falling for boys and lamenting not having a boyfriend. But by the end she’s happy with just herself and her friends. The beginning of the book has an image of Callie alone at the empty baseball field, hurt and humiliated after Greg has Matt lie to her about being at baseball practice. (p. 17) Her back is turned toward the reader. At the conclusion of the book, the final page shows Callie happy and exciting about the future, and facing the reader.As stated earlier, Drama was the second most challenged book of 2016. In 2014, parents in Mt. Pleasant, Texas claimed the book was sexually explicit and administrators removed the book from Chapel Hill Elementary School. In 2015, the book was removed from a Texas junior high school for being “politically, racially, and socially insensitive.” A small but vocal minority objected to the inclusion of two gay characters, one of whom shares an onstage kiss with another boy. Negative online reader reviews have accused Telgemeier of literally hiding an agenda inside the brightly-colored, teen-friendly covers. In 2017, Drama was challenged for including LGBT characters, being sexually explicit, and the book was considered too have an offensive political viewpoint. It has also been challenged for having “subject matter too advanced for elementary students.”We had a good discussion on Tuesday, October 17. I think over ten people showed up including three or four new people. Everyone seemed to like the book and one person gave it to their 10-year-old grandchild to read after they finished it. Some of the characters in drama do some immature things such as breaking up right before a performance. Someone at the discussion said such insensitivity isn’t surprising for middle school students. We liked that the story had unexpected twists. Some thought it might have been banned or challenged because of an interracial kiss. We saw no reason why teens and preteens couldn’t read it. I later gave my copy away at a drive for children’s books. We saw the musical “Hamilton” at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Friday, October 6, 2017. I had been listening to the music from “Hamilton” since April of the year before when I found the cast album on the airplane screens on a Delta Airlines flight. After I got home I streamed the cast album on Hoopla and enjoyed it. I especially liked the humorous song “You’ll Be Back” sung by the character King George III. The part of Hamilton on the album was played by the musical’s composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. This was the first I had ever heard of him, though he had written and starred in another Tony-winning musical many years before called “In the Heights.” I also streamed that one from Hoopla. Most of the roles in the original Broadway production of Hamilton were played by non-Caucasians including the other main character Aaron Burr played by Leslie Odom Jr. on Broadway. For my birthday in 2016, I got the official vocal selections book for “Hamilton.” We learned to play several of the songs and later performed a few at open mics such as “You’ll Be Back,” “My Shot,” and “Dear Theodosia.” We didn’t think we would be able to afford to see the musical when it came to Seattle in early 2018. Customers had to enter a lottery to get tickets. But in the summer of 2017 we planned a trip to Socal in the fall and my in-laws bought us tickets to the official Broadway touring production of “Hamilton” in L.A.On October 6, 2017, we flew from SeaTac Airport to LAX on Spirit Airlines. They did a humorous safety briefing and joked about their miniscule tray tables. After we arrived my in-laws took us to Zankou Chicken in Glendale for lunch. It was delicious as usual and a lot of food. The weather was rather warm in Socal and it got up to 100 degrees in Covina the next day. In the evening of October 6 my in-laws lent us one of their cars to go to the Pantages Theatre. We took the 101 that was quite slow with traffic. I can’t remember where we exited but it was vaguely familiar. We made our way to Hollywood Blvd and drove west. At the intersection where the Pantages is (Argyle Ave.), we turned right and then made another right into an underground parking garage. I don’t remember how we chose this place to park but it cost $12.50. We had to go down a couple of levels and back into a parking spot that was partitioned by a white metal chain. It looked like they expected many more cars.I can’t remember when we left for the theatre or when we arrived at the parking garage. From our parking space we took an escalator up to Hollywood Blvd. We weren’t hungry enough to have dinner but felt like we needed a snack so we went to Pressed Juicery. We got some strawberries with chocolate and one of their house-made juices. They were an adequate “dinner” outside in the warm night air. We then crossed Argyle Avenue. Large Hamilton posters adorned the high wall of the Pantages Theatre. Most people were much more dressed up than we were. Before we had left for L.A. my wife had made sure she could access our electronic tickets on her phone. We were glad it worked because it looked like others in the queue had trouble pulling up theirs. But we checked in just fine. We took note of the casting sign that said some of the understudies were playing roles that evening such as Dan Belnavis playing King George. We went upstairs and to the right. An employee then directed us down some stairs to the last curtain.At some point on the way to our seats someone handed us playbills. They had inserts with the cast for that evening’s performance. The only substitutions were Dan Belnavis as King George, A. Larson as Charles Lee, and several in the ensemble. We reached our seats at 7:35 pm on the balcony level in the fourth row from the front. They were the furthest to the right except for one seat. The other seats filled up quickly and I think the show was sold out or nearly. The audience consisted of all ages included some kids. On the stage below they had at least two revolving circular sections, one within the other. They would use them very effectively in the show. There was also a second loft or balcony level above the main stage floor. It had lots of rigging and some stairs that could be dropped and raised. On the stage were a wooden chair, a barrel, and a chest. The theatre itself had lots of gold-painted intricate carving on the walls and ceiling.By 8:00 pm, the seats were nearly full. The lights dimmed and we heard a voice over the speakers with a snooty English accent say, “This is your king” and tell us to silence our cell phones and unwrap any candy we might have in plastic. Then the show began. I thought I knew the story well because nearly all of it is sung on the cast album. But seeing it really added so much more dimension. Singers stood all over the stage and the upper loft level. The stairs lowered and rose as needed. In addition to the cast were dancers often wearing sleeveless, though still period outfits. They used the revolving stages to great effect. There were some large scale dance numbers and scenes with just a few characters. We couldn’t see the orchestra at all and I think they were below the stage.We enjoyed the acting and singing very much especially Michael Luwoye as Hamilton, Joshua Henry as Aaron Burr, and Solea Pfeiffer as Eliza Hamilton. They sounded just as good as the Broadway cast album. The understudy Dan Belnavis did a great job as King George and was one of the most humorous characters. Isaiah Johnson who played the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson was also humorous. He had his hair in a man bun as Lafayette and let it out in a sculpted afro as Jefferson for which he also wore a shiny green suit. Another humorous scene was when Eliza beat-boxed for 9-year-old Philip Hamilton’s rap. Listening to the soundtrack I thought they would have an intermission after the Revolutionary War scenes, but they actually didn’t have it until Hamilton was appointed as Secretary of the Treasury. The intermission occurred at 9:20 pm. They did a great job with the dramatic duel scene at the end.We enjoyed “Hamilton” the musical very much, probably even more than “Fun Home” a few months earlier. I’m glad we had the chance to see the official Broadway touring production. We did many other things on the trip to Socal such as dine with family at the North Woods Inn in Alhambra, meet up with friends at Juan Pollo in East L.A. and Brunch Coffee in Covina. We walked around downtown Alhambra and downtown Covina. It was very hot, up to 100 degrees in the afternoon in Covina. We went to the Fret House where we got a guitar pick and a folder that we still have as of JUne 2019. We returned to SeaTac on Monday, October 9 so glad we did not throw away our shot to see “Hamilton.” We went to Rhein Haus for the first time on Sunday, September 24, 2017. We’ve returned there several times since then but in early fall 2017 it had only been open for a few months and from what we could see from the outside, it seemed like it was always crowded. We finally decided to try it on September 24. We went there for an early dinner arriving at 5:45 pm and got seated right away. They’re a very large space with many high tables, a few low tables, a couple of bars, and a large fireplace in the middle along with a couple some more comfortable “living room” style chairs. I think they even sell some a la carte sausages and pastries behind a glass counter as you walk in. High on the walls were some elk and deer heads. They had at least four narrow courts for playing bocce and a couple of other games. One of them looked a little like shuffleboard with a long table. Black and white streamers hung from the ceiling that I think were for Oktoberfest going on then. Over the speakers they played rock and R B music.Rhein Haus actually wasn’t very crowded on that Sunday. The server brought us each two menus: one for food and the other for drinks. Their food menu had a couple of specials for Oktoberfest. They gave us a glass wine-like bottle filled with drinking water. But we still ordered drinks. I got a Bunderberg root beer and my wife got a Salzburg ginger brew. I tried it and liked it. It wasn’t overly sweet. On our table, steins contained silverware. We placed our orders and they brought them out fairly quickly. My wife got the Munich from the Wurst und Bun section of the menu. It consisted of a large Polish sausage on a fairly small bun with crispy sweet onions and Emmental-beer fondue. Like all the sandwiches, it came with French fries and a pickle spear. It was a good amount of food for dinner. I got the Braunswieger liverwurst that might have been one of the specials. I haven’t seen it on the menu recently. It consisted of several slices of liverwurst that tasted good along with some greens and spicy crisps. Everything was good but it might have been an appetizer because it wasn’t a lot of food. I had some of my wife’s fries to supplement it.After dinner my wife asked them about dessert but they were out of roasted banana ice cream. We have returned to Rhein Haus many times since then. I think our second time was for brunch on Sunday, October 29, 2017. I had the veggie hash with eggs and my spouse had the Leberkase breakfast sandwich. We’ve also tried their pretzel appetizer and some of their other sandwiches and entrées. Once we went there for an 80’s dance night but they played very few 80’s videos on their large screen near the small dance floor. But it’s still worth returning. (Spoilers)For our discussion on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, the Banned Book Club selected Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I was familiar with the story because I had seen the miniseries on Masterpiece Theater starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews back in the 1980’s. I didn’t quite understand the miniseries, why the story took the turns that it did, and why things didn’t seem to work out for the main character Charles Ryder by the end. I was hoping the book would shed some more light on it and it did. It wasn’t the easiest book to understand but I enjoyed it and maybe now that I’m an adult and have gone through much of the process of growing up, I can understand better. I also enjoyed the writing, the descriptions, and the inner reflections of the first person protagonist, Charles Ryder. The book takes place during times of great change in England as the power of the aristocracy wanes. Major events are mentioned such as the General Strike and the coronation of King Edward VIII in the 1930’s (or maybe it was Kind George VI). Religion also plays an important role since the Flytes, the aristocratic family with whom Charles becomes entangled, are minority Catholics in a Protestant country.I already knew that Brideshead was the name of the large country estate of the Flytes, though Lord Marchmain had long since settled in Italy with his mistress. He has actually gone to the Lido while his wife Lady Marchmain “never went near the Lido, of course.” (p. 58) But I didn’t know that Charles’ army camp (the novel’s “present day” with most of the story told in flashback) lies “along one gentle slope; opposite us the ground led, still unravished, to the neighborly horizon, and between us flowed a stream—it was named the Bride and rose not two miles away at a farm called Bridesprings, where we used to walk to tea; it became a considerable river lower down before it joined the Avon.” (p. 17) I remember the fountain at Brideshead from the miniseries: “an oval basin with an island of sculptured rocks at its center; on the rocks grew, in stone, formal tropical vegetation and wild English fern in its natural fronds.” (p. 89)Waugh has a rambling writing style that can sometimes be hard to follow but can also create vivid images. In his letters referenced at the end of the book, he states about it, “I should not think six Americans will understand it.” (p. 3 of the letters) He kind of comments on the writing through Charles’ narration who describes how Lady Marchmain “came to see me and, again, I must reduce to a few words a conversation which took us from Holywell to the parks through Mesopotamia, and over the ferry to north Oxford where she was staying.” (p. 161) In his letters, Waugh observes that, “The first person singular is a most treacherous form of narration, I found. It is so fatally easy in some ways, one can go on and on almost effortlessly and then one comes upon something which ‘I’ cannot possibly say which must be said.” (p. 9 of the letters)Waugh uses many words in the book that were new to me. In the preface he states that, “Much of this book is therefore a panegyric preached over an empty coffin.” (p. x) A panegyric is a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing. Charles narrates that, “Strife was internecine during the next fortnight” (p. 79) where internecine means destructive to both sides in a conflict. The drawing room at Brideshead is “a long, elaborate, symmetrical Adam room, with two bays of windows opening onto Green Park.” (p. 238) I’m not sure what an “Adam room” is. At a bar “Half a dozen youths were drinking and playing with slot machines; an older, natty, crapulous-looking man seemed to be in control.” (p. 310) Crapulous means marked by intemperance, especially drinking. Rex’s public life approaches “a climacteric” (p. 341) that’s a period of decreasing reproductive activity. Maybe it has another meaning I don’t know that applies better. In the Letters section, Waugh writes, “My Magnum Opus is turning into a jeroboam” (p. 9) that’s a wine bottle with a capacity four times that of a regular bottle.The book also includes some familiar words and names. Lunt, the dorm servant at Oxford tells Charles, “And there’s some even goes dancing in town at the Masonic—but the proctors will get them, you see.” (p. 23) By leaving Hardcastle’s car out, Charles and Sebastian get “him into grave trouble with the proctors.” (p. 43) Proctor seems to mean enforcer of the rules as opposed to an invigilator who administers an exam. Later Charles and Sebastian watch “the grave crowds crossing and recrossing under the campanile.” (p. 110) That reminds me of that restaurant in Los Angeles that served gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. One character has the nickname “Boy” Mulcaster that sound Filipino. Charles’ sees Rex Motram’s name “now and again peeping into the Tatler” (p. 268) that sounds like a tattletale magazine. At an exhibition of Charles’ paintings, Anthony Blanche tells him, “I have not come to a social function; I do not want my photograph in the Tatler, I have not come to exhibit myself. I have come to see the pictures.” (p. 308) Around that time in the book, Celia tells Charles, “Mr. Samgrass. Apparently he’s one of Lord Copper’s middle-aged young men on the Daily Beast.” (p. 304) I think the Daily Beast and Lord Copper show up in another book by Waugh called Scoop. I remember watching a Masterpiece Theater production of Scoop and one of the characters often says to another, “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”Most of the book covers Charles’ life from college to early adulthood. By the “present day” during World War II, he is in his late 30’s. Early on he narrates, “It seems to me that I grew younger with each adult habit I acquired.” Lord Marchmain’s mistress Cara tells Charles that his Lordship “is very fond of me and I protect him from his own innocence. We are comfortable … Sebastian is in love with his own childhood. That will make him very unhappy. His teddy-bear, his nanny … and he is nineteen years old.” (p. 114) Sebastian later tells Charles, “it’s a rather pleasant change when all your life you’ve had people looking after you, to have someone to look after yourself. Only of course it has to be someone pretty hopeless to need looking after by me.” (p. 248)Waugh very effectively presents the subtle dysfunction of the Flyte family. After crashing a car Rex says that Sebastian “is liable for anything up to six months imprisonment for being drunk in charge of a car.” (p. 135) Lady Marchmain tells Charles, “I slept very little last night, and all the time I kept coming back to one thing; he (Sebastian) was so unhappy.” (p. 163) Charles warns Lady Marchmain, “If you worry (Sebastian) with keepers and cures he’ll be a physical wreck in a few years.” (p. 188) She laments that “Any failure in my children is my failure.” (p. 194) Later Cordelia tells Charles, “I wonder if you remember the story mummy read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk—I mean the bad evening. ‘Father Brown’ said something like, ‘I caught him’ (the thief) ‘with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” (p. 254) She goes on to describe how her mom is like that with her grown children.Religion is also a strong theme in the book because the Flyte family is Catholic in heavily Protestant England. Charles says, to Bridey, “For God’s sake,” I said because I was near to tears that morning, “why bring God into everything?” Bridey answers, “I’m sorry. I forgot. But you know that’s an extremely funny question.” (p. 164) By the end, Julia tells Charles, “Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can’t shut myself out from his mercy … But I saw today things in the schoolroom, so bad they were unpunishable, that only mummy could deal with—the bad thing was on the point of doing, that I was not quite good enough to do; to set up a rival good to God’s. Why should I be allowed to understand that and not you, Charles?” (p. 392-393)The book was banned because of its gay characters such as the overt Anthony Blanch, the more subtle Sebastian and potentially Charles. Blanche tells some students planning to kick him out of a place on campus, “nothing could give me more pleasure than to be manhandled by you meaty boys.” Sebastian tells Charles that Anthony Blanche “wrote to me. Apparently he’s taken a flat in Munich—he has formed an attachment to a policeman there.” (p. 118) A couple of women potentially for hire at the Old Hundreth club say about Charles and Sebastian, “we’re wasting our time. They’re only fairies.” (p. 129) Julia asks Charles why he married Celia and he answers, “Physical attraction. Ambition. Everyone agrees she’s the ideal wife for a painter. Loneliness, missing Sebastian.”“You lived him, didn’t you?”“Oh yes. He was the forerunner.” (p.295)Later Julia says to Charles, “It’s frightening … to think how completely you have forgotten Sebastian.”“He was the forerunner.”“That’s what you said in the storm. I’ve thought since, perhaps I am only a forerunner, too.” (p. 348)In 2005, Alabama State Representative Gerard Allen proposed House Bill 30 that would have banned public school libraries from purchasing books by gay authors or with gay characters. The billed also proposed that books with gay characters and college textbooks that suggested homosexuality was natural would have to be removed and destroyed. Banned books included Brideshead Revisited with its gay character Anthony Blanche and potential romantic love between Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte. The bill was proposed to “protect our culture” and prevent immoral ideas from spreading. The bill did not pass.We had a good discussion on September 19. I believe at least 6 or 7 people showed up. Most of us believed that Charles and Sebastian have a romantic relationship even though Charles isn’t gay. The situation is more complex than that, just as Sebastian’s relationship with his family simply isn’t “affluenza” or alcoholism on his part. We talked about Charles’ future. By the end of the book he is “loveless, friendless, and homeless.” But some of us felt he would find love again. We talked about end and why Julia feels she has to choose her Catholic faith over Charles. When I first saw the English TV series many years ago I thought it was depressing. But now I understand it better, though not as well as the six Americans who understand it. We had a late lunch at Southern Golden Chinese Cuisine in Lodi, California on Friday, September 15, 2017. We had traveled to Lodi to attend the wedding of my cousin at a winery in nearby Acampo the next day. The wedding website mentioned several lodging options in various price ranges. We chose the Days Inn that was a lower to mid-range option. Most of the wedding guests chose the higher end option. In the late morning of September 15 we flew into Sacramento Airport. It was my first time there. We had to take a tram to get from where we landed to the ground transportation section. In one tall section near the elevators there was a large red geometric sculpture of a rabbit. On the ground floor was a large sculpture of an old-school suitcase.My aunt and uncle picked us up right away outside the terminal. They had driven down from the Puget Sound area the day before and stayed at a motel or B B north of the Sacramento Airport. I think they drove us 40 or 50 miles to Lodi. They were staying at the higher end hotel that was along a highway in a more open area without too much development on either side. Our hotel, the Days Inn, was on a busier commercial street with shops and restaurants. Just before our hotel (more of a motel) was an apartment complex. The weather was very warm and sunny though there weren’t any wildfires in the area while we were there.After our aunt and uncle dropped us off at the Days Inn, we checked in and went to our room up the stairs on the second floor. I can’t remember if they had an elevator and I don’t remember much about the room. I think it had a fridge and possible an air conditioner, definitely a heater that we did not need. I do remember that it had windows on opposite sides, front and back. The back window near the small bathroom faced the apartment complex we passed on the way there. I think the bathroom had the sink outside the room with the shower and toilet.We finished unpacking and went out to find a place to have lunch. We walked on the sidewalk along Cherokee Lane in the opposite direction from which we had come. It might have been north. We passed a large ranch market that looked like a possible lunch option if we couldn’t find anything else. We reached the parking lot of a strip mall. There may have been a few empty storefronts and a Mexican place before we found Southern Golden Chinese Cuisine at 2:10 pm. I don’t think we had researched the place beforehand. It looked fairly unassuming. I don’t remember if they had posted a menu. Inside it was mostly booths, white walls, and Chinese décor in red and gold. It reminded me a bit of Tacoma Szechuan. The menu was simpler, though, with lunch specials and some interested dishes. They did serve Pepsi products.I can’t remember if we ordered at the counter or if they took our order. I do remember that the prices were very reasonable and the food was very good, probably the best we had during the entire 3-day trip. We shared the garlic fried chicken with fried rice lunch special, the aluminum foil chicken, and the fried green beans, an interesting option at a Chinese restaurant, but still delicious. They were like green bean tempura, very crispy and accompanied by a sweet red “dipping area.” The fried chicken consisted of a leg. I think my wife had it and enjoyed it very much along with the fried rice. At least two pieces of chicken were wrapped in foil for the entire entrée. They were fairly small but delicious once unwrapped along with the chow mein that accompanied them. In all, our orders amounted to plenty of food.After dinner we walked along Cherokee Lane to the Days Inn. On the way we stopped by the ranch market. They had a deli that served Mexican sandwiches and other dishes. We just got a carton of soy milk and some Alhambra bottled water.That evening my aunt and uncle took us out to Cactus Mexican Dining for dinner along with many of our relatives who had come from across the country to attend the wedding. I don’t remember much about Cactus Mexican Dining. They were in an old brick building that used to be a lodge for the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows. They were large with several rooms. Their menu was also large, fairly traditional and priced mid-range. I got a pork dish with green mole that was just OK. My wife’s order turned out not to be what she expected and unimpressive. I think there was a giant burrito that one of our party ordered.After dinner we went to a welcome party for the wedding at a fancy estate house at the winery where the wedding would be held. It had its own small movie theatre showing Frozen, very high ceilings, a refrigerator with double doors, a huge stuffed bear, some pictures of Elvis, and at least four dining room tables with large chairs. I think a family actually lived there.The next day I walked around downtown Lodi. I caught a bus on Cherokee Lane that took me to the downtown transit center. There was also some kind of festival going on that my aunt and uncle visited. In the afternoon and evening we attended the wedding at the winery. It took a while to get there but it was worth it. The weather was perfect and everyone looked great, especially the wedding party. The reception was held in a hall with probably the largest doors I’ve ever seen.The day after the wedding we took an Uber from the Days Inn to Sacramento Airport. After going through security we walked through the airport trying to figure out where to have lunch. We settled on Cafeteria 15L, a trendy bar and café with seating on high stools. They had a bar and much table and counter seating. They served Pepsi products and played rock music over the speakers such as Michael Penn and Roy Orbison. I got the Bahn Mi sliders and my wife got the buffalo chicken sandwich. The place was cranking the whole time we were there but what we remember most was a patron with a very impressive mustache. It looked like he took meticulous care of it making sure it curled up just right on both sides. That was our last major impression of the Sacramento/Lodi area. We flew back to Seatac soon after.


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